Notes & Quotes: First steps to the West in a historic year


Sunset. (Photo by Matt Phillips via Unsplash)

Tom Morrow

My life quest to “Follow the Sun” westward to find adventures really began to take fruition in 1954. Why? Because I would soon have a driver’s license. Freedom was on the horizon. I’ve had that nagging wanderlust of going West ever since our family trip to the Sand Hills of Nebraska and the Black Hills of South Dakota in the summer of 1950.

As a youngster, I would stand in our southern Iowa front yard watching El Sol dip below the horizon. I just knew beyond that sunset awaited a lifetime of fabulous experiences, wonderful places and interesting people. I knew if I were ever to fulfill those dreams, it wouldn’t be from a Midwestern farming community. The only thing I wanted out of Iowa was me.

Notes & Quotes by Tom MorrowIn 1954, the nation was on the verge of the rhythmic beat of rock ‘n’ roll music. It was the beginning of my earliest desires to write. As the beat drew bolder and louder, the swiveling hips of Elvis Presley weren’t far behind. The nation’s jukeboxes began ushering in the decline of popular middle-of-the-road singers like Guy Mitchell, Eddie Fisher, Patti Paige and Kay Starr as well as melody makers such as Percy Faith. Radio disc jockeys began making room for the new sound taking over the pop charts, That sound would become known as “rock ‘n’ roll.”

The biggest technology news of 1954 was the launching of the world’s first nuclear-powered vessel, the 340-foot submarine USS Nautilus. The Navy boasted the $55 million vessel could circle the globe under water without refueling and, at 30 knots, could outrun any military vessel of that era. The atom-powered sub would have enough fuel to last seven years.

Oceanside News logoThere was a momentous wedding that year between bombshell actress Marilyn Monroe and baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. The New York Yankee fielder and the sexy actress surprised the entertainment world with their marriage, but it was to be short-lived. Monroe didn’t really understand just who DiMaggio was to the American psyche. During a trip to entertain the troops in Korea, Monroe had thousands of GIs screaming and yelling during her stage performance. When she returned to Japan where her husband was waiting, Monroe exclaimed, “Joe, you just can’t imagine what it’s like to have thousands of fans screaming and applauding you.” A stoic, solemn-faced DiMaggio replied, “Yes, I can.”

In February 1954, the controversial U.S. Army-McCarthy hearings began. For months, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisc., tried to convince Washington and the nation there were Communists among the troops. Later that year, legendary news commentator Edward R. Murrow all but destroyed the senator by making a fool out of him in a live CBS-TV interview.

In 1954, scientists determined cigarettes were hazardous to health. Not long after, smokers began realizing the hazards of tobacco. Cigarette and cigar advertising followed on radio and television.

It was in 1954 when Westinghouse began selling the world’s first color television for the hefty price tag of $1,100. The sets didn’t work that well. It wasn’t long before RCA introduced its version of a color-compatible TV set, but it was primitive compared to those sets offered by companies later on. It wouldn’t be until the mid-sixties before television networks and stations caught up with the technology. By then, the average color TV price was down to $450.

For me, the summer of 1954 was a poignant one. I began to feel what it was like to fall in love … puppy love at best, but I didn’t know it at the time. As the years flowed together, it was around that time in my young life I decided to run away from home. I headed West (of course) along the Rock Island Railroad tracks. I walked for about 20 miles until I reached a neighboring town. With five bucks in my pocket, I went to a small café and ordered a hamburger with a Coke, then I called home. For the moment, I had my fill of life on the road, so to speak. An uncle came after me. Nothing was said on the ride home. Neither of my parents spoke when I got into the house that evening. In fact, nothing was ever said. A few years back, I did find the “going away” note I had left my parents telling them I was leaving. Mom had tucked that note into a small vase she had left for me when she passed.

As for my initial, but ever so brief effort to leave home, that quest of heading West would have to wait five more years. There would be plenty of time for future adventures. Looking back, those anxious, youthful years passed ever so swiftly. After eight decades, it’s amazing at how fast all my years have flown by. The rapidity of time passes at unbelievable speed. The older one gets, the faster time flies. Still, my pursuit continues as I “Follow the Sun” … if only in my dreams.

Tom Morrow is a longtime Oceanside-based journalist and author who contributes to OsideNews.

Columns represent the views of the individual writer and do not necessarily reflect those of the North Coast Current’s ownership or management.

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